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Spotify

Tracking Trends With Spotify’s Resident Trend Spotter, Shanon Cook

Spotify

Back in June, Spotify revealed that it had 20 million paid subscribers and more than 75 million active users altogether. That’s 75 million people with access to most songs at the click of a button, giving the Swedish streaming service an enviable amount of data when it comes to what users listen to.

Earlier this month, for example, Spotify released a musical map detailing the most popular genres in each city. It automatically compiles a playlist of the most popular songs in each city. Right now, Sydney is digging Tkay Maidza, Golden Features and Eves The Behavior among others. In April, it even uncovered the metal fans are the most loyal music listeners in the world while Australian country listeners are the most loyal here in Oz.

We recently tapped into the mind of Shanon Cook, Spotify’s resident trend spotter, to look into her crystal ball and see where popular music is headed in 2015.

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Shanon Cook

Describe your role at Spotify?

I’m Spotify’s resident trend spotter. I keep track of new artists who are bubbling up, songs that are taking off in different parts of the world and playlist trends. I share my discoveries with the media, primarily broadcast. Previously, I was a reporter at CNN where I covered the music biz and interviewed artists like Kanye West, Sting and Britney Spears.

What artists are trending worldwide at the moment?

If we’re talking in terms of popularity, Major Lazer is a big deal; Lean On has been on top of our global chart for about two months. The Weeknd is having a real moment with his song Can’t Feel My Face which took no time to reach number one with our U.S. and Aussie listeners. This week, he also occupies the No. 2 spot in the U.S. with The Hills.  A track that’s been shared a lot among listeners lately is a sweet Hawaiian love song called Lava – it’s the soundtrack to a short film that’s screening in theaters over here and people find it enchanting.

A few years ago, EDM was dominating the American charts. Have you seen a shift towards any other genres since you’ve been working at Spotify?

Yes, the genre of 2015 so far is hip-hop. Drake and Kendrick Lamar’s albums had massive release weeks in terms of streams, as did J. Cole, Big Sean, Wale, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler The Creator, Trey Songz and Meek Mill. Our core listeners are pretty young and they have a voracious appetite for hip-hop. But EDM is still going strong! Avicii’s Waiting For Love is a global hit at the moment, as is Jack Ü’s Where Are Ü Now. And Calvin Harris just dropped How Deep Is Your Love which is bound to be big.

How do people find artists on Spotify? Do they find it themselves or through the playlists or through the charts?

It happens in a lot of different ways. Some make discoveries because they follow their friends and pay attention to what they’re listening to. Others are happy to take cues from Spotify’s Discover feature that guides listeners to artists who they might like based on their taste. I find a lot of songs and artists I like through playlists, either ones that tastemaker friends have created, or the ones that our team of curators at Spotify put together. Our New Music Friday playlist is really popular and is a great resource for sampling new music. I recently starting following Rap Caviar to help me keep up with the hip-hop scene.

Do you think that Spotify creates trends or reacts to them?

Hmmm, good one! A bit of both. We like to think we have a good ear (a collective ear, if you will). My colleagues at Spotify come from rich backgrounds in the music industry – from record label A&R to musicians themselves, and we like to champion new artists we think listeners might like. Hozier and Lorde are two examples of artists we highlighted early when we saw their potential, and both went on to great success. But in terms of reacting; it’s our listeners who react to trends by sharing songs and streaming them. They’re the real trendsetters.

the interns’ focus is generally about new music. What do you think it takes for a new artist to break through? Is it being featured on television or catching a break online or impressing influential people online…

All three of those avenues are still vital. But at the end of the day, it always starts with a great song. Write and record a brilliant song and get it out there and it stands a chance of being shared.

Sam Smith was the new artist success story of last year. Can you see any new artists doing the same this year?

New Jersey rapper Fetty Wap is definitely having a breakout year thanks to the crossover hit “Trap Queen.” It had a good run as the number one song with our listeners in the U.S. and his latest single “679” is on the rise. I think Fetty Wap will be having a pretty sweet time at the Grammys next year.

Is it too early to predict the song of the (US) Summer?

I’m calling it now — The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face.

Are people still listening to albums from start to finish?

Yes, they are. We saw that with Drake’s surprise album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. For several weeks, he had multiple tracks populating our top streams chart in the U.S., which showed that listeners were checking out the album as a whole, not just one or two songs. We often see several tracks from an artist’s new album lighting up our viral charts soon after its release, too, which is a sign that listeners are exploring albums from start to finish.

Is running one of the key times people listen to music? Does it inform what music they listen to and what tempo they choose?

Yeah, we have millions of running playlists on Spotify and we’ve learned that runners tend to run in time with the beat when listening to music, so we came up with a feature that detects your running speed and suggests music that matches it.

Does Spotify see video and music working seamlessly together? For example, users will switch from listening to Sam Smith to suddenly watching a Vice documentary?

Yes, exactly. What we’ve seen is listeners will sometimes dip out of listening to music momentarily to check out something else online; a funny video, a news story. So our goal is to enable them to keep on doing that without having to leave Spotify. Everything they need will be in the one place.

Is it possible that Spotify will create shows that are exclusive to the platform like Netflix does?

That’s the plan. We’re creating original content. And here’s a bit of mandatory listening; Spotify produces a podcast called Incoming, which features a panel of music experts, including yours truly (cough, cough) discussing (and fighting over) new music. It’s hosted by veteran music journalist Joe Levy and is lots of fun. We hope!

HWLS_main

HWLS: The Mystery Explained

“We’ve kept it pretty simple from the get go and let things come out at a slow pace but it’s because we don’t want to put too much pressure on promoting it, we don’t want to hype things up too much.”

MSMR_main

MS MR On Splendour In The Grass, The New Album And ‘Tumblr Glitch-Pop’

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Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow, form the energetic and effervescent MS MR. Self-described as ‘tumblr glitch pop’, the band are no strangers to the blogosphere. The duo will be hitting our shores for Splendour in the Grass, which follows shortly after the release of their second album How Does It Feel.? We had a chat with Plapinger and discussed the forthcoming record, Splendour In The Grass and what it means to be an internet artist.

For those that may not know, how did MS MR come to be? I’ve read that it began from the two of you emailing back and forth?

We met after college, after we graduated. I was working on my label Neon Gold Records, and Max sent me and email and we pretty much went to it from there.?It was kind of funny that the first time we ever met was as strangers at our first ever session.

So you’re playing Splendour in the Grass this year, obviously you guys must be pretty used to playing festivals by now. You played Coachella just last year. Is there anything significantly different from playing a festival to a gig, is it more nerve-wracking? 

I think for me, i get so nervous before shows and as soon as I walk on stage, its over, its fine. Every moment leading up to a show its nerve-wracking. No I think, festivals are so much fun. Especially with the way we record and produce our music, to perform on that sort of sound system is sort of how it’s meant to be, and how it’s meant to be listened to. And you know, you have your own fans that are there but it’s also an opportunity to announce yourself to a whole new audience. You have new people coming up to you and being like ‘’I’ve never heard of you before and I love your music’, and that’s a great feeling to reach out to a new audience.

Do you think there’s a substantial difference between audiences around the world? Or do they all react to your music similarly?

I don’t know, yeah I think they react pretty similarly; certain places have a little more enthusiasm. I think Australians especially have a always been very supportive, and had a bit more passion. Like festivals like Laneway in Australia have always been some of my favourite festivals! ?It really comes down to who the audience are and how they connect with the music.

Your new album comes out in July, what can we expect to hear from it? How does it differ from Secondhand Rapture?

It’s a really nice evolution from Secondhand rapture. You know, Secondhand Rapture was the first song we had ever written in our entire lives, so I think we’ve really grown from that.? I’m a much better singer than how I was with Secondhand Rapture. And socially, I think this album is a bit more beat and bass driven. It’s incredibly energetic, like we have elements of fist pumping, and some are more headbopping and laidback.
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Are there any collaborations on the album? I read somewhere that you guys dabbled in co-writing for the first time.?

We did three co-writes which we’ve never done before! All three were experiments and all three made the record, it was really interesting working with other people. You know, Max and I had only ever worked with each other.?We co-wrote with Tove Lo, who’s a really good friend of ours, and MDNR, and Zach Nichita as well which was really fun.? It was nice, we waited until late in the process to bring in, or experiment with co-writes. There was a great freedom to go into the sessions and be really vocal about what we wanted to do and what we wanted to say with our music.

Do you feel as though there’s more pressure in releasing your second LP rather than the first??

I think there is, I think we did a really nice job of keeping the pressure at bay. We’ve always written music first and foremost for ourselves. We could have gotten to studios and paid a lot of money but we strived to record in small, no pressure areas. So you know, we had no label looking over our shoulders. I think we did a really great job focussing on the music and what we wanted to say.

What’s your relationship like when writing music? Does one of you write the lyrics and the other the music, or do you both work on everything together??

I think really I write the lyrics and melodies, and Max writes the music, but really we’re still involved in one another’s projects. It’s really nice to have such a constant back and forth, we were looking at so much new music on the road, and learning from how other artists are so experimental and instructive.


MSMR_Quote2Do you listen to a lot of new artists? If so, who?

I listen to a ton of new artists. You know, owning my own record label I’m always looking for at new record artists, looking for new signs, I’m always on the hunt for something new and different.

I saw on your Facebook page that you guys describe your genre as ‘Tumblr Glitch Pop’, what would your description of that genre as a whole be? How did you come to think of it?

It was a joke at first! We thought it was funny how it was so fractured, so specific, it’s a stereotype within itself. A cheeky laugh of how unimportant genres are. Ultimately we are an alternative pop act.

It’s kind of the age of the internet artist. There’s so many mediums that an artist can utilise to promote new songs, new albums. I even saw someone on Tinder the other day promoting their rap project. How do you feel about this in regards to your band? Do you think it makes it easier or harder for artists to become known??

We’ve always enjoyed involving innovative ways to involve your audience. A huge part of our band’s beginning was over tumblr, you know we released our EP on there. And it was instrumental in putting our album out.? I think it’s good that there are so many mediums, like being able to make a video and put it on Instagram, or using a Twitter feed. It’s a nice way to connect with fans.

There’s a lot of dialogue lately about artist royalties, especially with the whole Taylor Swift vs Apple debacle. Do you have any strong feelings in regards to this??

I think that it’s really wonderful that Taylor Swift is involved, she’s really established and it’s a wonderful thing for her to speak up for the lesser artist, and give them a voice, like us! I’m appreciative now to have these royalties now thanks to Taylor Swift. And it’s good that there’s more discussion from both artists and listeners regarding royalties.? I mean, I use streaming services all the time and I love it. It’s a huge way for people to discover music, and it’s helped people discover our music. But I think artists should be compensated for their art and their time.? I feel like people will use the correct service that pays the artist when it exists, we just haven’t got there yet.

And just one last generic interview question before I let you go, who are you most excited to see at Splendour??

I’m pretty excited about Mark Ronson, is Mark Ronson on the lineup?

Yep! 

Yeah, I’m really excited to see him, Stop Me by Mark Ronson is one of my favourite songs, so I’m really excited to see him.

You can catch MS MR at Splendour in the Grass, as well as their sideshows. Details below. 

Wed 22nd July | 170 Russell, Melbourne | Buy tickets

Sat 25th July | Metro Theatre, Sydney | Buy tickets

Sun 26th July | Splendour in the Grass | Buy tickets
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Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow, form the energetic and effervescent MS MR. Self-described as ‘tumblr glitch pop’, the band are no strangers to the blogosphere. The duo will be hitting our shores for Splendour in the Grass, which follows shortly after the release of their second album How Does It Feel.? We had a chat with Plapinger and discussed the forthcoming record, Splendour In The Grass and what it means to be an internet artist.

For those that may not know, how did MS MR come to be? I’ve read that it began from the two of you emailing back and forth?

We met after college, after we graduated. I was working on my label Neon Gold Records, and Max sent me and email and we pretty much went to it from there.?It was kind of funny that the first time we ever met was as strangers at our first ever session.

So you’re playing Splendour in the Grass this year, obviously you guys must be pretty used to playing festivals by now. You played Coachella just last year. Is there anything significantly different from playing a festival to a gig, is it more nerve-wracking? 

I think for me, i get so nervous before shows and as soon as I walk on stage, its over, its fine. Every moment leading up to a show its nerve-wracking. No I think, festivals are so much fun. Especially with the way we record and produce our music, to perform on that sort of sound system is sort of how it’s meant to be, and how it’s meant to be listened to. And you know, you have your own fans that are there but it’s also an opportunity to announce yourself to a whole new audience. You have new people coming up to you and being like ‘’I’ve never heard of you before and I love your music’, and that’s a great feeling to reach out to a new audience.

Do you think there’s a substantial difference between audiences around the world? Or do they all react to your music similarly?

I don’t know, yeah I think they react pretty similarly; certain places have a little more enthusiasm. I think Australians especially have a always been very supportive, and had a bit more passion. Like festivals like Laneway in Australia have always been some of my favourite festivals! ?It really comes down to who the audience are and how they connect with the music.

Your new album comes out in July, what can we expect to hear from it? How does it differ from Secondhand Rapture?

It’s a really nice evolution from Secondhand rapture. You know, Secondhand Rapture was the first song we had ever written in our entire lives, so I think we’ve really grown from that.? I’m a much better singer than how I was with Secondhand Rapture. And socially, I think this album is a bit more beat and bass driven. It’s incredibly energetic, like we have elements of fist pumping, and some are more headbopping and laidback.

Are there any collaborations on the album? I read somewhere that you guys dabbled in co-writing for the first time.?

We did three co-writes which we’ve never done before! All three were experiments and all three made the record, it was really interesting working with other people. You know, Max and I had only ever worked with each other.?We co-wrote with Tove Lo, who’s a really good friend of ours, and MDNR, and Zach Nichita as well which was really fun.? It was nice, we waited until late in the process to bring in, or experiment with co-writes. There was a great freedom to go into the sessions and be really vocal about what we wanted to do and what we wanted to say with our music.

Do you feel as though there’s more pressure in releasing your second LP rather than the first??

I think there is, i think we did a really nice job of keeping the pressure at bay. We’ve always written music first and foremost for ourselves. We could have gotten to studios and paid a lot of money but we strived to record in small, no pressure areas. So you know, we had no label looking over our shoulders. I think we did a really great job focussing on the music and what we wanted to say.

What’s your relationship like when writing music? Does one of you write the lyrics and the other the music, or do you both work on everything together??

I think really I write the lyrics and melodies, and Max writes the music, but really we’re still involved in one another’s projects. It’s really nice to have such a constant back and forth, we were looking at so much new music on the road, and learning from how other artists are so experimental and instructive.


MSMR_Quote2Do you listen to a lot of new artists? If so, who?

I listen to a ton of new artists. You know, owning my own record label I’m always looking for at new record artists, looking for new signs, I’m always on the hunt for something new and different.

I saw on your Facebook page that you guys describe your genre as ‘Tumblr Glitch Pop’, what would your description of that genre as a whole be? How did you come to think of it?

It was a joke at first! We thought it was funny how it was so fractured, so specific, it’s a stereotype within itself. A cheeky laugh of how unimportant genres are. Ultimately we are an alternative pop act.

It’s kind of the age of the internet artist. There’s so many mediums that an artist can utilise to promote new songs, new albums. I even saw someone on Tinder the other day promoting their rap project. How do you feel about this in regards to your band? Do you think it makes it easier or harder for artists to become known??

We’ve always enjoyed involving innovative ways to involve your audience. A huge part of our band’s beginning was over tumblr, you know we released our EP on there. And it was instrumental in putting our album out.? I think it’s good that there are so many mediums, like being able to make a video and put it on Instagram, or using a Twitter feed. It’s a nice way to connect with fans.

There’s a lot of dialogue lately about artist royalties, especially with the whole Taylor Swift vs Apple debacle. Do you have any strong feelings in regards to this??

I think that it’s really wonderful that Taylor Swift is involved, she’s really established and it’s a wonderful thing for her to speak up for the lesser artist, and give them a voice, like us! I’m appreciative now to have these royalties now thanks to Taylor Swift. And it’s good that there’s more discussion from both artists and listeners regarding royalties.? I mean, I use streaming services all the time and I love it. It’s a huge way for people to discover music, and it’s helped people discover our music. But I think artists should be compensated for their art and their time.? I feel like people will use the correct service that pays the artist when it exists, we just haven’t got there yet.

And just one last generic interview question before I let you go, who are you most excited to see at Splendour??

I’m pretty excited about Mark Ronson, is Mark Ronson on the lineup?

Yep! 

Yeah, I’m really excited to see him, Stop Me by Mark Ronson is one of my favourite songs, so I’m really excited to see him.

You can catch MS MR at Splendour in the Grass, as well as their sideshows. Details below. 

Wed 22nd July | 170 Russell, Melbourne | Buy tickets

Sat 25th July | Metro Theatre, Sydney | Buy tickets

Sun 26th July | Splendour in the Grass | Buy tickets
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LizzieRose_Interview

“This Is Ridiculous”: Elizabeth Rose Talks Marriage Equality

It’s been over a year since we last spoke to Elizabeth Rose in New York. Since then, she’s released tracks with Frames, worked with Chrome Sparks (Another World) and has been slowly building her debut album which she promises we’ll hear more of when she takes to Splendour In The Grass in July.

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TOKiMONSTA: “I Just Get Really Bored And I Don’t Want To Feel Limited By Anything”

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LA producer TOKiMONSTA is in an enviable position right now. Beginning as an underground figure of the electronic music, she’s now at a point where she’s watched the mainstream bend closer and closer to her genre. On top of that she’s in the middle of the LA scene, in a period that many are calling a golden period for electronic music in the city.

She defines the very essence of a modern producer. She’s got her trademark sound but she jumps around influences, citing herself to be an A.D.D. producer. As such, she’s currently got projects on the go with Kelly Rowland, Joey Bada$$ and Isaiah Rashad. On top of that she’s producing the debut record for LA singer Gavin Turek.

The producer is about to make her first trip back to Australian in over 18 months. We called TOKiMONSTA ahead of her visit, pulling her away from the studio for a chat about electronic music’s changing faces, her classical music roots and appeasing her old fans in her live sets.

During our chat we also spoke about Australia’s interesting musical climate whereby an act like Flume can trump pop acts on the chart. “It’s different in Australia than it is everywhere else,” she says of our electronic music scene.

Midway through the interview she interrupts. “I’m so sorry by the way that I sound really scatter-brained. I’m usually much better but I drank a massive amount of coffee and I don’t really drink coffee,” she says. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell. Her answers are eloquent and informed, even though she would be excused for the occasional ramble given just how much she’s got on the go right now.

Read the full interview and check out her Australian tour dates below.

What are you working on right now? Remixes or your own stuff?

Nah, I’ve been working on some classical stuff. I guess like more like modern, minimal classic stuff. I wanted to try something a little different.

Great. There was a little bit off that on your last release wasn’t there?

Exactly so yeah, I’m working on more stuff like that like a lot of piano work, very lush piano stuff. I mean I’m attempting but… *laughs*

Did you grow up with classical music?

Yes I did. I grew up playing the piano but I didn’t really care for it at the time. You know, I think when it’s compulsory or your parents are forcing you to do something you never really appreciate it at the time. I did grow up with classical music but I didn’t appreciate it until a bit after. It’s nice to touch back on all that.

When did it shift from your parents’ taste to eventually developing your own musical taste?

I guess the transition happened once I started listening to the radio. I realised there is more out there to music than just this one style of music. So my first introduction to non-classical music was hip-hop and, being from LA, you get a lot of west coast rap and radio stations that are just dedicated to that style.

What’s the electronic music scene like in LA at the moment? I hear it’s in a golden period?

I would hope that it’s not at its peak. I would hope that it’s just on the rise but it’s doing quite well. There are a lot of electronic artists that are moving to LA especially from other places so it’s a really large scene here. But I feel like in every moment in music there’s a city that has its time to shine. New York had its time, London had its time. I feel like with a lot of alternative grunge rock stuff Seattle had its moment but right now LA seems to be the place for electronic music. And not just one style of electronic music, in terms of something more dancey like EDM, but even on the more, I don’t like saying the word artsy, but even on the less conventional side, it’s really great here. And I feel like the people in the city really appreciate all kinds of music. People tend to be quite open-minded here so it’s really nice.

Yeah, that’s really cool. America, at large, the EDM thing seems to have initially hit really hard and now producers and artists are moving towards more left-field pockets of electronic music. Do you feel like that’s true?

Yeah, you know what, it really kind of is and it’s interesting to see that happen because I have been a bit left of centre, if we say centre is what the most accessible form of electronic music will be. But over the years I’ve suddenly been pushed to the middle, or not pushed into the middle. What I have been doing is become a bit more centred. It’s very palpable for me to see how music has changed and how people’s taste in music has changed because now it’s like the general public understand electronic music and now they are able to go and search out different forms of it. With electronic music it’s a big umbrella, there’s mellower stuff, there’s ambient stuff, there’s very aggressive stuff. I think it’s really cool to see how people are seeking out things that are a little bit more interesting.

“I want to make music that I make and at the time I made it, it was a little weird for people and now what I’m making is a little more understood and I haven’t changed anything.”

Can you see some of that less-conventional production seeping into the mainstream? I read that you were doing some work with Kelly Rowland?

Yes. Umm. With Kelly I feel as though…well, we know her as a popstar from a very big pop group but I guess that’s just the angle that we see her as. But her as a human being, she has a very broad palate in terms of the music that she enjoys herself and I don’t know if it’s really me doing more pop music or her doing more left-field stuff or us both going in each other’s direction a bit more.

I have this thing. I was never the person to put my foot down and say,” oh I’m super underground I always want to be this indie hero.” I want to make music that I make and at the time I made it, it was a little weird for people and now what I’m making is a little more understood and I haven’t changed anything. My music has progressed naturally. And if what I make becomes poppy or pop changes its definition to what I’m making now then I’m totally ok with it.

I find that really interesting because, particularly in Australia, years ago the EDM artists were packing out venues and then along came a few artists like Flume for example and suddenly there was this thing where these people who had barely had any recognition were seeping into the charts. I feel like it’s this very odd climate at the moment where this music that was underground before is now being listened to by heaps of people. It must be really interesting for you to witness?

That’s actually something I find really interesting as well. Australia, it’s really cool. I’ve seen it too because over the past few years it’s changed so drastically. With someone like Harley hitting the charts – I remember it was quite a big deal because he beat out some big pop acts on the charts over there – but it’s cool for me to see that because I was like “wow I never thought that would happen.” It’s like mid-tempo beat sort of stuff and it’s interesting. It’s different in Australia than it is everywhere else.

You’ve worked with heaps of different artists. From the disco-y vibes of Gavin Turek to the more soulful Anderson Paak. How do you decide which vocalists you want to work with?

I guess I always view vocalists like another instrument. In terms of choosing who to work with it’s like “do I want to put a guitar on the track or a saxophone or a violin?” And each of these vocalists are so distinct that, like if I put Anderson Paak on a track, it’s a track I would never consider for Gavin Turek. They’re sort of like in my arsenal. They’re way more than that obviously but in terms of who I’ll ask to work on the track, I’ll obviously have people in mind. That’s sort of how I view it.

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I’ve read a lot about how you’re A.D.D. with your production in terms of chopping and changing melodies. Do you feel like it’s the same with influences. Do you want to make a soulful track and then next minute want to do something else or are you quite consistent with that?

It really depends I suppose. I guess with choosing how I make music I, I dunno, I guess I just get really bored and I don’t want to feel limited by anything. I’ll go through phases. I’ll go through a stage where I wanna make a lot of piano-oriented music that doesn’t have a lot of percussion. There’ll be a point where I just don’t wanna do that anymore and I’ll probably just do the opposite and I’ll probably just make a bunch of really agressive beats or I’ll switch and I might want to start singing on stuff. It’s nice to exercise different assets of my production and my creativity, otherwise I feel like I wouldn’t be able to progress.

What about your live sets. Do you stick with the same one for a while or is the TOKiMONSTA show that we see this time going to be a lot different to the last one we saw?

It is going to be a little different. I feel like I’m doing more live edits of my tracks and implementing them in my set. There’s a period of time where I was very anti-old discography even if the song was particularly popular. If I don’t like it now I wouldn’t really put it into my set. From an artistic standpoint that’s true, but if it’s something that I feel doesn’t represent me at the moment, I shouldn’t, I don’t feel like I’m obligated to put it in my set but at the same time I know what it’s like to be a fan of someone and love certain albums and certain tracks and feel that disappointment when it isn’t played. So I went through over this past year and a half to two years, probably since the last time I was in Australia, where I did a lot of modern edits of older tracks of mine that I know hardcore older fans would appreciate. So that’s a new aspect of my set.

On terms of what you’re working on at the moment are you looking towards another release or nothing planned as of yet?

I’m actually currently working on Gavin’s record. The entire thing will be produced by me but I really want it to be a platform for her. I want this record to lift her up as an artist on her own but it will definitely have the sort of aesthetic that we have together. Obviously when she does her own stuff with her other producers it sounds different to the stuff she does with me. So I’m looking forward to that and that’s nearing completion. And I’m hoping to have a part two of my Desiderium EP come out in the fall as well. But that’s sort of on the backburner. Gavin’s record is really my priority right now and also working on a record with Anderson Paak.

Is that nice to be able to step back and release stuff you’ve worked on under a different name?

Yeah it really is. And it’s different when you’re producing for someone else as to when you’re producing for yourself. It’s teaching me a lot about cooperation and generally working well with others and letting someone else show me what their vision is. With these two artists I appreciate them so much and I think they’re so talented so I only what the best for them. For me to be able to contribute in any way to their success and their future as amazing musicians I think is very rewarding.

Making music that suits them, has that tested the boundaries of what you’re used to sonically?

Not really. Working with both of these artists has been pretty much a cake-walk because they have both worked with me already so they really appreciate the production that I offer. They know my production and they know what I do. And they appreciate my input as well because what’s really nice is sitting down and working on the tracks from scratch and also for me to chime in on their vocals. In the past, especially with Gavin, she used to send me the track finished with the vocal so I never really had to coach her through anything or give her any tips or advice. This time around it’s interesting because I’m there to contribute If I have an idea. I definitely leave it up to her to decide whether or not she wants to take any advice.

Can you tell us anything about the Joey Bada$$ collaboration?

Oh well that one was something I said in passing. I feel like with Joey and Kelly, well the Kelly project is ongoing but with Joey it’s more like we’re trying to work on a track together to maybe have him on my record or me on his. That’s just an ongoing thing. I am also trying to do more work with Isaiah Rashad and he should probably, I guess I shouldn’t guarantee anything, but he should pop up soon with me on something.

Watch: TOKiMONSTA Red Bull Music Academy Tokyo Lecture

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TOKiMONSTA Australian Tour

Wednesday, 3rd June
Le De Da, Canberra

Thursday, 4th June
Rocket Bar, Adelaide

Friday, 5th June
Sab Fran Bathhouse, Wellington

Saturday, 6th June
Revolt Artspace, Melbourne

Sunday, 7th June
Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney

Friday, 12th June
Galatos, Aukland

Saturday, 13th June
Gilkinsons, Perth

Sunday, 14th June
The Flying Cock, Brisbane

Ticket details here.

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LA producer TOKiMONSTA is in an enviable position right now. Beginning as an underground figure of the electronic music, she’s now at a point where she’s watched the mainstream bend closer and closer to her genre. On top of that she’s in the middle of the LA scene, in a period that many are calling a golden period for electronic music in the city.

She defines the very essence of a modern producer. She’s got her trademark sound but she jumps around influences, citing herself to be an A.D.D. producer. As such, she’s currently got projects on the go with Kelly Rowland, Joey Bada$$ and Isaiah Rashad. On top of that she’s producing the debut record for LA singer Gavin Turek.

The producer is about to make her first trip back to Australian in over 18 months. We called TOKiMONSTA ahead of her visit, pulling her away from the studio for a chat about electronic music’s changing faces, her classical music roots and appeasing her old fans in her live sets.

During our chat we also spoke about Australia’s interesting musical climate whereby an act like Flume can trump pop acts on the chart. “It’s different in Australia than it is everywhere else,” she says of our electronic music scene.

Midway through the interview she interrupts. “I’m so sorry by the way that I sound really scatter-brained. I’m usually much better but I drank a massive amount of coffee and I don’t really drink coffee,” she says. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell. Her answers are eloquent and informed, even though she would be excused for the occasional ramble given just how much she’s got on the go right now.

Read the full interview and check out her Australian tour dates below.

What are you working on right now? Remixes or your own stuff?

Nah, I’ve been working on some classical stuff. I guess like more like modern, minimal classic stuff. I wanted to try something a little different.

Great. There was a little bit off that on your last release wasn’t there?

Exactly so yeah, I’m working on more stuff like that like a lot of piano work, very lush piano stuff. I mean I’m attempting but… *laughs*

Did you grow up with classical music?

Yes I did. I grew up playing the piano but I didn’t really care for it at the time. You know, I think when it’s compulsory or your parents are forcing you to do something you never really appreciate it at the time. I did grow up with classical music but I didn’t appreciate it until a bit after. It’s nice to touch back on all that.

When did it shift from your parents’ taste to eventually developing your own musical taste?

I guess the transition happened once I started listening to the radio. I realised there is more out there to music than just this one style of music. So my first introduction to non-classical music was hip-hop and, being from LA, you get a lot of west coast rap and radio stations that are just dedicated to that style.

What’s the electronic music scene like in LA at the moment? I hear it’s in a golden period?

I would hope that it’s not at its peak. I would hope that it’s just on the rise but it’s doing quite well. There are a lot of electronic artists that are moving to LA especially from other places so it’s a really large scene here. But I feel like in every moment in music there’s a city that has its time to shine. New York had its time, London had its time. I feel like with a lot of alternative grunge rock stuff Seattle had its moment but right now LA seems to be the place for electronic music. And not just one style of electronic music, in terms of something more dancey like EDM, but even on the more, I don’t like saying the word artsy, but even on the less conventional side, it’s really great here. And I feel like the people in the city really appreciate all kinds of music. People tend to be quite open-minded here so it’s really nice.

Yeah, that’s really cool. America, at large, the EDM thing seems to have initially hit really hard and now producers and artists are moving towards more left-field pockets of electronic music. Do you feel like that’s true?

Yeah, you know what, it really kind of is and it’s interesting to see that happen because I have been a bit left of centre, if we say centre is what the most accessible form of electronic music will be. But over the years I’ve suddenly been pushed to the middle, or not pushed into the middle. What I have been doing is become a bit more centred. It’s very palpable for me to see how music has changed and how people’s taste in music has changed because now it’s like the general public understand electronic music and now they are able to go and search out different forms of it. With electronic music it’s a big umbrella, there’s mellower stuff, there’s ambient stuff, there’s very aggressive stuff. I think it’s really cool to see how people are seeking out things that are a little bit more interesting.

“I want to make music that I make and at the time I made it, it was a little weird for people and now what I’m making is a little more understood and I haven’t changed anything.”

Can you see some of that less-conventional production seeping into the mainstream? I read that you were doing some work with Kelly Rowland?

Yes. Umm. With Kelly I feel as though…well, we know her as a popstar from a very big pop group but I guess that’s just the angle that we see her as. But her as a human being, she has a very broad palate in terms of the music that she enjoys herself and I don’t know if it’s really me doing more pop music or her doing more left-field stuff or us both going in each other’s direction a bit more.

I have this thing. I was never the person to put my foot down and say,” oh I’m super underground I always want to be this indie hero.” I want to make music that I make and at the time I made it, it was a little weird for people and now what I’m making is a little more understood and I haven’t changed anything. My music has progressed naturally. And if what I make becomes poppy or pop changes its definition to what I’m making now then I’m totally ok with it.

I find that really interesting because, particularly in Australia, years ago the EDM artists were packing out venues and then along came a few artists like Flume for example and suddenly there was this thing where these people who had barely had any recognition were seeping into the charts. I feel like it’s this very odd climate at the moment where this music that was underground before is now being listened to by heaps of people. It must be really interesting for you to witness?

That’s actually something I find really interesting as well. Australia, it’s really cool. I’ve seen it too because over the past few years it’s changed so drastically. With someone like Harley hitting the charts – I remember it was quite a big deal because he beat out some big pop acts on the charts over there – but it’s cool for me to see that because I was like “wow I never thought that would happen.” It’s like mid-tempo beat sort of stuff and it’s interesting. It’s different in Australia than it is everywhere else.

You’ve worked with heaps of different artists. From the disco-y vibes of Gavin Turek to the more soulful Anderson Paak. How do you decide which vocalists you want to work with?

I guess I always view vocalists like another instrument. In terms of choosing who to work with it’s like “do I want to put a guitar on the track or a saxophone or a violin?” And each of these vocalists are so distinct that, like if I put Anderson Paak on a track, it’s a track I would never consider for Gavin Turek. They’re sort of like in my arsenal. They’re way more than that obviously but in terms of who I’ll ask to work on the track, I’ll obviously have people in mind. That’s sort of how I view it.

I’ve read a lot about how you’re A.D.D. with your production in terms of chopping and changing melodies. Do you feel like it’s the same with influences. Do you want to make a soulful track and then next minute want to do something else or are you quite consistent with that?

It really depends I suppose. I guess with choosing how I make music I, I dunno, I guess I just get really bored and I don’t want to feel limited by anything. I’ll go through phases. I’ll go through a stage where I wanna make a lot of piano-oriented music that doesn’t have a lot of percussion. There’ll be a point where I just don’t wanna do that anymore and I’ll probably just do the opposite and I’ll probably just make a bunch of really agressive beats or I’ll switch and I might want to start singing on stuff. It’s nice to exercise different assets of my production and my creativity, otherwise I feel like I wouldn’t be able to progress.

What about your live sets. Do you stick with the same one for a while or is the TOKiMONSTA show that we see this time going to be a lot different to the last one we saw?

It is going to be a little different. I feel like I’m doing more live edits of my tracks and implementing them in my set. There’s a period of time where I was very anti-old discography even if the song was particularly popular. If I don’t like it now I wouldn’t really put it into my set. From an artistic standpoint that’s true, but if it’s something that I feel doesn’t represent me at the moment, I shouldn’t, I don’t feel like I’m obligated to put it in my set but at the same time I know what it’s like to be a fan of someone and love certain albums and certain tracks and feel that disappointment when it isn’t played. So I went through over this past year and a half to two years, probably since the last time I was in Australia, where I did a lot of modern edits of older tracks of mine that I know hardcore older fans would appreciate. So that’s a new aspect of my set.

On terms of what you’re working on at the moment are you looking towards another release or nothing planned as of yet?

I’m actually currently working on Gavin’s record. The entire thing will be produced by me but I really want it to be a platform for her. I want this record to lift her up as an artist on her own but it will definitely have the sort of aesthetic that we have together. Obviously when she does her own stuff with her other producers it sounds different to the stuff she does with me. So I’m looking forward to that and that’s nearing completion. And I’m hoping to have a part two of my Desiderium EP come out in the fall as well. But that’s sort of on the backburner. Gavin’s record is really my priority right now and also working on a record with Anderson Paak.

Is that nice to be able to step back and release stuff you’ve worked on under a different name?

Yeah it really is. And it’s different when you’re producing for someone else as to when you’re producing for yourself. It’s teaching me a lot about cooperation and generally working well with others and letting someone else show me what their vision is. With these two artists I appreciate them so much and I think they’re so talented so I only what the best for them. For me to be able to contribute in any way to their success and their future as amazing musicians I think is very rewarding.

Making music that suits them, has that tested the boundaries of what you’re used to sonically?

Not really. Working with both of these artists has been pretty much a cake-walk because they have both worked with me already so they really appreciate the production that I offer. They know my production and they know what I do. And they appreciate my input as well because what’s really nice is sitting down and working on the tracks from scratch and also for me to chime in on their vocals. In the past, especially with Gavin, she used to send me the track finished with the vocal so I never really had to coach her through anything or give her any tips or advice. This time around it’s interesting because I’m there to contribute If I have an idea. I definitely leave it up to her to decide whether or not she wants to take any advice.

Can you tell us anything about the Joey Bada$$ collaboration?

Oh well that one was something I said in passing. I feel like with Joey and Kelly, well the Kelly project is ongoing but with Joey it’s more like we’re trying to work on a track together to maybe have him on my record or me on his. That’s just an ongoing thing. I am also trying to do more work with Isaiah Rashad and he should probably, I guess I shouldn’t guarantee anything, but he should pop up soon with me on something.

Watch: TOKiMONSTA Red Bull Music Academy Tokyo Lecture

TOKiMONSTA Australian Tour

Wednesday, 3rd June
Le De Da, Canberra

Thursday, 4th June
Rocket Bar, Adelaide

Friday, 5th June
Sab Fran Bathhouse, Wellington

Saturday, 6th June
Revolt Artspace, Melbourne

Sunday, 7th June
Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney

Friday, 12th June
Galatos, Aukland

Saturday, 13th June
Gilkinsons, Perth

Sunday, 14th June
The Flying Cock, Brisbane

Ticket details here.

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